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Images by: StereoVision

Words: Rachel Eisley

April 12, 1961 Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin embarked on the historic first manned space flight. Twenty years later on April 12, 1981, the US launched the first space shuttle flight. And that’s something worth celebrating! Every year, Yuri’s Night parties are held all around the world; it’s like the Cinco de Mayo for space. You can check our the Arlington party this year at Artisphere.

BYT: What first got you excited about Yuri’s night?  Has it been a life-long interest?

ARTbyJARED: My first exposure to a Yuri’s night party was in 2007 at the Russian Social Club in Dupont Circle.  The party wasn’t very well attended, was mostly space industry people trying to put on a frat party.  Despite their lackluster event, I immediately saw the potential for a party that would properly celebrate this holiday. So, I contacted the folks at Goddard who were going to produce a Yuri’s night the next year and asked to be part of the organizing, and I suggested an art show and burlesque acts as part of a performance to celebrate Yuri’s night.  Sadly, they did not like that idea at all, and basically stopped answering my calls.  Depressed, I turned to my long suffering wife and asked her if she wanted to make our own Yuri’s night happen. She said yes, and we partnered with Art Whino to produce our first Yuri’s night in 2008.

Space has always been a passion of mine. One of the things that has always stuck in my craw has been the barriers that people put up between science and the average person.  It starts when you a little kid in school, science is portrayed as complex, inaccessible or dull and if you’re into it, you’re a nerd. There are all sorts of things that the non-scientific person can contribute to science. For example, shunning the folks who are interested in science fiction, the science community is shooting itself in the foot. If the average person gets excited about space through Star Wars or Star Trek that’s great! If they get excited about it they are more likely to be educated about it, which is good for NASA.  I see our event as the SpaceX of Yuri’s Night events!

BYT: How did you come up with the idea for burlesque performances in celebration of Yuri’s night?

ARTbyJARED: Really its a natural fit.  The stigma that burlesque consists of pervy guys in trench coats eyeing strippers is simply not the case. The reality is that burlesque is more about comedy and empowered sexiness than anything else.  They never get naked, and rarely wear anything less revealing than Princess Leia’s slave costume.   Science and sex go so well together – (without nuclear testing on a tiny atoll in the pacific, we wouldn’t have the bikini) and the sci-fi acts that these gals concoct are some of the best burlesque around. The genre cries out for it; Captian Kirk making it with every green lady that comes along; Dale Arden in flash Gordon; Barbarella! The list goes on and on!

BYT: Tell us about the art exhibit accompanying the performance this year.

ARTbyJARED: Elevator to the Moon is about retro-futurism: pasts vision of the future.  Artists envisioned the future from the past’s perspective, and I think that they really hit the nail on the head this year. Wodzianski’s use of lobby cards from old sci fi movies, to the pinhole photography of Scott Speck, Sherril Anne Gross’ six armed PanAm stewardess, to Chris Rackley’s retro video installation. The title Elevator to the Moon is inspired by an idea that I came up with while drunk in college, that you could create an elevator that would take you into orbit instead of rockets: just get a geostationary satellite and drop a cable down.  Brilliant, right? I came up with it by myself, and it turns out that science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke came up with it in the 60’s and there are people who are working on making a space elevator right now!  Elevator to the Moon feels like the notion that someone 100 years ago might have had, 40 years before the first human spaceflight.

BYT: Where do the artists and performers hail from? Any particular theme for this year?

ARTbyJARED: All the artists in both the exhibit and the performances are local from the Washington, DC area (with the exception of Pinkie Special, who is from NYC.) The theme for this years performance is “Wrath of Shock-A-Khan” because it is our sophomore episode with the Gagarin crew: Capt Ballcrusher, Number Two and Drinkbot, and we’re of course punning on the second Star Trek movie “Wrath of Khan.” One thing that we are doing differently this year is that the performance will be like the experience of watching a Star Trek episode on TV, with the burlesque acts serving as the “commercials.”

BYT: Can you give us a taste of any surprises in this year’s performance?

ARTbyJARED: Special guest Lucrezia Blozia will guest star as “Shock-A-Khan.”  I like the idea that our Yuri’s night shows might become like the Love Boat or Murder She Wrote, where actors go to play a role for one episode.  I don’t want to give away too much because there are (believe it or not) continuity nerds about our show (you know, the guys who says, “in episode one, Capt Ballcrusher refers to Drinkbot as R2Drink2, but doesn’t do it again in episode two.) Anyway, if I say too much those folks will get upset (as Dr. Who’s Riversong says, “No Spoilers, Sweetie.”)

BYT: What will you be wearing the night of?

ARTbyJARED: My black flight suit with Star City patches (Star City is the Cosmonaut training facility), like always. (I am too fat to get into any official NASA gear.) It’s functional, however, since I end up doing lots of tech work during the show.  The one you should really be asking is the real master of this universe, my wife, Kate. (All I have seen are her silver boots!)

BYT: Tell us who will enjoy attending Yuri’s Night. Something I loved last year was that there was literally something for everyone – from boylesque to burlesque, sexy ladies and sexy drag queens, and even light saber battles to get the less pervy audience members in the mood to celebrate space.

ARTbyJARED: You said it, we are as inclusive as it gets! There is literally something for everyone (21+ of course) but those who have the most fun are the folks who have a burning desire to dress as an alien, or captain Mal, or a Jawa or the surface of the Moon.  Costumed audience members definitely have the most fun!

BYT: What can we look forward to in the near future from Art by Jared?

ARTbyJARED: Getting some rest! But we have ambitions to do a haunted house with a time machine which would be announced late summer/early fall.  By then we’ll also be talking about Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club again! (and lets be honest, the crew of the Gagarin already have next years show all planned out…think Robots!)